Costolo: I think the role that it's playing in society right now is that we used to have a filtered, one-way view of events in the world from the media — whether it was a sporting event like the Olympics or an event like the presidential debates last week. . . . Now, with Twitter, people want to know what everyone else thinks and we're getting this inside-out, multi-perspective view of what's going on right now as it happens from everybody else that's watching the same thing we're watching. . . .
Hobson: So you see it primarily then as a media entity, as something that would compete with the other news outlets that we have?
Costolo: No, I view it as very, very complementary to the news outlets.
Twitter is far from the only company thinking along these lines. "Social TV" is one of the hottest new tech categories, with startups like GetGlue and Zeebox and established companies like Microsoft (through its Xbox Live service) all trying to persuade the public to log on, check in and ultimately buy stuff while they're watching the boob tube.
But Twitter has a big edge over these upstarts, because it's already populated with most of the famous people in America, who are generating and sharing more worthwhile content every minute than any human could possibly process. Of course, it generates more than its share of worthless content as well. And during an event like the first presidential debate, which generated an estimated record 10.3 million tweets, it can get so raucous and cluttered as to become nearly intolerable. But Twitter is working on that.
One of the first examples of Twitter's latest pivot came in June, in the form of a partnership with NASCAR that flew under the radar of the coastal media. When it was smaller, Twitter relied on hashtags to organize tweets around a topic or event. These days, clicking on #nascar on race day brings an overwhelming torrent of 140-character bursts, many of which are redundant, obnoxious or otherwise unenlightening.